A recent survey discovered that the average UK office worker spends around 16 hours each week in meetings. That’s two-fifths of your working week, with excessive meetings ruining your productivity in the workplace, undermining your morale and potentially creating significant stress levels.

While it would be nice to think that all those hours were informative, motivational and ultimately productive, this is rarely the case without exceptional organisation. The reality is that unless you know how to orchestrate and conduct a good business meeting, they can be a complete waste of time and completely detrimental to the successful management of a business.

With this in mind, what steps can you take to conduct more efficient and productive business meetings? Consider the following: 

Take care of the Fundamentals

To begin with, you must have an agenda, even if this is a skeleton list with items for discussion. This at least provides a template for the meeting, and affords people advance warning of both the meeting and its nature. The meeting area should also be comfortable but not too relaxed, with an ambient temperature and as few distractions as possible. Phones should be switched off and possibly even given up upon entry, although this may be a little too draconian for the modern workplace.

Use the Tools of the modern Trade

If we are being honest, flipcharts and markers belong in a museum. If the dry-wipe pen actually works, it’s a miracle, while people find it hard to focus on this in the age of technology. Deciphering the scribbles can be tricky, plus it’s too slow and extremely limited. 

Digital projectors improve matters somewhat, until the bulb starts to dim or you can’t get the focus right. They can be noisy too, so you may want to consider more progressive communication tools. Interactive panels and tablets, although the initial outlay is more than a projector, are a much more efficient method of delivering information. 

There is no need for handouts, as they can be sent directly to the tablets. Several people can interact with the panel simultaneously. Display multiple projects at once, conduct Skype meetings or browse the internet. Attendees should take more notice because the presentations on interactive panels will be clearer, faster and hopefully, more compatible with their preferred communication methods.

Involve everyone and create an Immersive Environment

There’s little point in having interactive panels if the attendees don’t interact. A meeting should be a collective event. Even a few relevant questions can help move things forward. If people sit passively while you do all the work, then you’re doing something wrong. It’s up to you to motivate and trigger conversations. Initiate a dialogue (always start with a positive) such as “Bob really nailed those figures last week, so I’d like him to take us through them,” or “Claire knew how to handle a particularly tricky client, so why doesn’t she share her tactics?” 

It’s best if people are forewarned but occasionally it’s useful to see what people can generate off the cuff. It’s important not to make people feel they’re under an interrogation spotlight, however, so if someone is squirming, move on quickly and decisively.

Take Charge of timings and manage your Meeting

The average attention span is around thirty minutes, so try to keep your meetings brief. Chances are that comprehensive report you’ve written can be condensed into key points, with a more detailed version available for reading later. Similarly, as Tarantino would direct his actors to get the best performance, you will have to do the same. Verbose colleagues must be encouraged to ‘keep it in a nutshell’. 

It’s important to challenge difficult attendees and this is where mediation techniques are extremely useful. If an issue is raised that’s not relevant to the current agenda, suggest adding it for the next meeting, rather than going off on a tangent or allowing side meetings. 

Before the meeting, decide what you wish to accomplish, then take up the baton and conduct your flawless concerto.

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